Dust and glory

Today’s reflection on the Advent ‘O’ Antiphon for December 22nd takes us from here to eternity!

O King of the peoples  and cornerstone of the Church, come and save man, whom you made from the dust of the earth.

Cardiff continues to grow.  The next proposed stage of developments is to blow fresh breath into Cardiff Bay with the development of Atlantic Wharf for more entertainment, leisure, pleasure, housing, hospitality and retail.  It’s characteristically ambitious.  Cardiff needs to compete with other cities.  How the plans will empower the community of Butetown, though, needs to be seen – or will it be left behind like the initial redevelopment of the docks?

What, though, holds a growing city together? Finance? Retail? Profits? Politics? Glitz and glamour? Music and entertainment? Business and Tourism?  All are important, and then some.

Perhaps the real question to ask is where or what is the heart of a city? What is the heart of a place that is growing, seeing the skyline change, watching communities expand and merge? What are the cornerstones of the communities of which we are a part, their defining qualities, their true character?

We must ask this of the Church, too.  On what or who do we depend?  What or who is at the heart of our life together?  The answer comes in today’s Advent Antiphon.  Christ is the cornerstone of the church.  He is the one on whom we depend, the one who defines us, our beating heart.

He is the one on whom we depend, the one who defines us, our beating heart.

It is easy to slip away from this truth, to engage in so many projects, many of which are worthwhile, follow so many changes, be active and busy but lose sight of who we are and what we are, and why we’re doing them at all.  Christ is the cornerstone.  For us there is no getting away from this, and everything we do, we do for him who comes to us whom he made from the dust of the earth.

On Ash Wednesday, when we receive the ashes upon our foreheads, we hear the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  They draw us back to our humble beginnings, and our mortal end.  “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Some years ago now, at the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, in a creative reimagining in Summer time, the young people were invited to receive the sign of the cross upon their forehead in glitter with the accompanying words, “Remember you are dust bound for glory.”

“In his own image God created man / And when from dust he fashioned Adam’s face / The likeness of his only Son was formed:/ His word Incarnate, filled with truth and grace.”

So goes a hymn sung at Evening Prayer.  We are made in the image of God and, as at the Creation God gazes upon the image of his Son when he looks upon humanity, so too in the Incarnation when we gaze upon Jesus we see God’s image and what it means to be a perfect human being.  “God became human so that human beings can become divine,” said St Augustine.  He transforms the dust of which we are made.

To a packed square of thousands of young people in Manilla on World Youth Day, St John Paul II said, “You are made to live with God for ever.”  All those young people with hopes and plans, ambitions and dreams for the future, are reminded that their future lies further ahead, far ahead, for eternity is the life upon which we should set our hopes.

We are fashioned from the earth, we are dust and ashes but with Jesus as our cornerstone we can hope to live with him for ever. Eternity beckons.

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